Continuing Kathrine’s journey in Emali, Kenya with a special meeting of old friends dear to Kathrine’s heart and well known to the ChildFund team.
Bahati HIV Women's Support Group and Kathrine
Today we visited the Bahati HIV Women’s Support Group. I had met these women more than two years ago when I was last in Emali and was excited to be seeing them again as they had made a real impression on me back then.
We got out of the van and we could hear the women singing a traditional Kamba welcome. The women each came forward and hugged us. Many I recognised from my last visit but as I greeted each woman my heart started to sink as I noticed how much more unwell and thin many of them looked compared to my last visit.
The Bahati Women meet once a week to talk and support each other and consider themselves to be a family. All of the women are HIV positive and are struggling to raise their children and often other children who have been orphaned by HIV and AIDS.
The women are talented performers and get their message across about living with HIV through song and dance. The women performed for us although I could not understand what they were singing about, it was very evident that it was a sad song. As they sang I asked ChildFund Kenya’s Sponsor Relations Officer in Emali, Violet Lukale what it was about. Violet explained that they were singing: “The journey is too long – God have mercy on us.” This made me very sad as last time I heard them sing it was about hope for the future and living positively with HIV.
As we chatted to the women after the performance we discovered that the drought had been particularly hard on them. The global economic crisis coupled with the drought meant some of these women had lost their jobs. Now the only work that is sometimes available is heavy work that because of their weakened health they can’t do. Their lack of income combined with the rise in food prices and the drought preventing them from growing their own food means there is very little food for them and their children.
Like mothers in New Zealand they ensure that their children have enough to eat first before eating themselves. What all this means is that often these women are not eating every day. Unfortunately the HIV medication they need to survive is very strong making it necessary to eat when taking it. If they do not eat then they vomit the pills back up making the medication useless.
I came away feeling quite upset and more determined than ever to do something to help this group of women. They are women just like me who are doing everything they can to help themselves and their children to have a bright and healthy future.